Congress Uses over 25% of Communication for Taunting


I was sent this article and at first thought it was from The Onion. It seems a fairly in-depth study found that Congress spends a significant amount of its communication efforts simply goading one another. The Washington Post has the depressing story: 

To come up with this insight, King and two graduate students analyzed 64,033 press releases sent out by all U.S. senators from 2005 to 2007. They used a computer program to sort them into different categories, based on their content.

Three of their categories were well known to political scientists. Over the years, they have come up with a Grand Unified Theory of Congressmen, which holds that there are three primary ways a legislator expresses him- or herself.

The first is credit-claiming. That involves a legislator trumpeting his own role in securing a bridge or a dam or some other thing voters want. “ ‘The government did this thing. It’s because of me,’ ” King explained.

The second is position-taking. This is the thing that “Schoolhouse Rock” and civics classes teach you is the point of congressional speechifying. “ ‘I’m at this point on the ideological continuum,’ ” King said.

The third traditional category is “advertising.” It might be recognizing some hometown team or dignitary, a nonpartisan effort to get one’s name out there. “ ‘Look at me! I’m a member of Congress!’ ” King said.

But, he said, some news releases he and his team studied didn’t fit neatly into the three traditional categories.

“They’re a different thing. To say that the only thing members of Congress do is advertising, credit-claiming or position-taking, that’s not right,” King said. “Because sometimes, they just stand up there and taunt the other side.”

Now, it’s not earth-shaking news that legislators like to insult each other. But what King did is quantify how much they do it: more than a quarter of the time. He found taunting was most common in members whose districts were “safe” — strongly held by their party.

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